I thought I’d given up any future as an athlete when I quit volleyball in the 10th grade because the director of the high school play finally recognized my “supreme” acting potential (I was cast as a talking flower). Despite my venture into the arts being less-than-fruitful, I did not return to competitive sports, team or otherwise1. Therefore, when I moved to Emporia, the home of the Dirty Kanza 200, to teach 7th grade science, cycling was casual, relaxing, and functional; I never imagined that endurance gravel racing would play such a big part in my life.
Living in Emporia I’ve learned more about [bicycle] forks than I ever anticipated. I arrived in Emporia with my beloved, bright orange, Specialized Tricross, set up as a commuting bike2. In the spring of my first year teaching, I was riding home as quickly as I possibly could straight into the strong Kansas wind, and I realized…
daaaaaaang! I’m going pretty fast!
As any curious individual would do, I checked the speedometer on my handle bars. 17mph… 18mph… 19mph and then – well, you can only imagine3.
I had to say goodbye to my beautiful orange fork (as well as some chunks of my skin which were, thankfully, sewn together quite wonderfully by the Emergency Staff at Newman Regional Health4). I replaced my fork with another fixed fork, essentially all the only fork style I knew of until Lauf Forks graciously invited me to be one of their “Dirty dozen”.
The Lauf Grit replaced the fixed carbon fork on my otherwise-aluminum Salsa Warbird. It was a little hard to see the orange stripe on the fixed fork go, but only until I took the Lauf Grit out on gravel. The Grit has a mechanical suspension. It doesn’t require fluid maintenance or anything else out of my comfort zone, and it barely adds any weight to my ride. What it does add is comfort and stability.
The first thing I noticed in my first 30 seconds on gravel was that the tight washboard road I was riding on felt like nothing at all. It was a smooth road, as far as I was concerned. Similarly, the chunky gravel I encountered around Council Grove yesterday was reduced to pebbles. Last weekend I cruised in and out of small water crossings like it was no big deal, with a confidence that I have learned is merited with the Grit. As the winter5 wraps up here in Kansas, I can barely contain my excitement for traversing the Flint Hills on my Warbird, Grit in tow. Hardly anything is better than crushing these hills with spring showing its face all around you.
This year will be my third DK200. I want to beat the sun. I want to make my team proud6. I want to celebrate the beauty of the Flint Hills while pushing myself to and beyond my limits.